Keyword Strategy For Your Resume

Keyword Strategy For Your Resume

By: Nate Pedronan, Operations Director | Yves Ferrer, Editor

We have all heard that recruiters utilize “keywords” to filter through candidate resumes, but what does that mean? For a lot of job seekers and applicants, guessing what keywords to use can sometimes feel like the search for the Holy Grail. Why do keywords matter on a resume? When done correctly, these keywords can unlock the mystery of landing the interview with your dream job. In this article, I’ll help you with choosing what keywords to use to help get your resume noticed by employers.


Boolean? What?

Before we talk about keywords, we need to start with “Boolean.” “Who?!” you might ask. If you have done research papers, you may have come across this before. Boolean is the process of stringing together specific keywords to filter relevant information using and, or, not statements and parentheses/quotation marks for grouping.


Fundamentally, your keyword “Holy Grail” is figuring out what Boolean strings a recruiter will use. The keywords the recruiter chooses will be specific to the job they are recruiting for. Ask yourself this important question: “What words would a qualified candidate list on their resume for this specific job?


Many candidates incorrectly think that a resume is meant to list their entire work history, accomplishments, duties, and responsibilities, but this way of thinking is wrong. Your resume needs to be the answer to the question the recruiter is asking: “Can you fix our problem?” The keywords in the Boolean string are what the recruiter uses to filter those candidates who are potentially a fit and those who will be a waste of time to interview. So how does it work?


Here is an example:

Let’s imagine you are a recruiter and you need to find a candidate in the video gaming industry with a strong leadership background currently in a sales/business development role. Candidate needs to be based in San Jose, CA and they should have an MBA. Believe it or not, we could find that. Here is an example of a simple Boolean string a recruiter might use:



(“San Jose” OR “Bay Area”) AND (“MBA” OR “Masters in Business”) AND (“video games” OR “gaming”) AND (“business development” OR “sales” OR “customer service” OR “B2b” OR “selling”) AND (account manager)

*this string includes an “x-ray site search at the end which will look for LinkedIn profiles “”


There are numerous combinations and different keywords you can use and each will get a slightly different result. It’s up to the recruiter to select which of these candidates is best for their role.


Boolean can be used in a variety of tools from Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), LinkedIn searches, Database mining, Job Boards, and even Google!


Don’t believe me? Copy/paste the Boolean String into google and you should get a list of over 7,000+ LinkedIn profiles of people who could potentially fit the job I described above.


What doesn’t matter for keyword search are “fluffy” filler phrases that are impossible to quantify. Recruiters typically avoid these phrases since it doesn’t get them any closer to finding a qualified candidate: good communicator, multitasker, thrive in a fast-paced environment, strong leadership qualities, problem solver…. You get the idea.


The key is that you don’t necessarily need to know how Boolean works. Trust me. It gets a lot more complicated if you add x-ray search, modifiers, etc. What you, as a job seeker, care about is guessing which phrases or words the recruiter might utilize to build their Boolean keyword string: Locations, software, licenses, customer base, industries, and job titles are all examples of what a professional recruiter might look for and utilize in their search.


How This Helps You:

Recruiters heavily lean on what their hiring managers, the person who is hiring/interviewing candidates for the job, want to see to build Boolean search strings. If your resume lists these keywords somewhere in the content, chances are your resume will be viewed by a recruiter getting you the best chance possible. The danger is that if your resume does not list the correct keywords, includes eliminator keywords, or contains a random spattering of keywords without a focus, then your resume is probably not even being seen. Here are two places you can find Boolean Keywords for optimizing your resume or LinkedIn:


Job Description:

Go straight to the “minimum requirements” section at the bottom of the job description and make sure to include keywords that recruiters may utilize in their Boolean search: Certifications, specific job skills, mandatory pieces of experience, education, industry-relevant terms, etc.


Current Employees:

Studying for a test is essential, but what if you could get the answers to the test? LinkedIn is an excellent resource for looking at current employees and finding out what skills they have in their work history which helped them land the job. Pick out keywords that fit your skill-set.


Where to add keywords:

There are a lot of places where you can sprinkle keywords into your professional resume. Here are just a few to get you started.


Job title:

One of the first things recruiters look for is if job titles match. Obviously, if your job exactly matches what they are recruiting for, then you would be worth a look. Keep this in mind because unique abbreviations can sometimes throw off the keyword in your position title.


Employer Content:

Bullet points for your most recent employers should list keywords. If you have done a similar job to the one they are recruiting for, make sure you sprinkle keywords to make it even more apparent.


Technical Skills:

You need to know how to use the tools before a recruiter even considers you. How do they know you have the right experience? You guessed it, list it in your resume keyword strategy. Look for technical terms, software, tools, equipment, certifications, licenses, etc. in the “minimum requirements section.” Make sure you have these terms listed in your resume or you might as well not apply.


Keep these tactics in mind when you get your new resume and let us know if you have any questions! Want tips on effective job searching? Download our free guide

Have questions or something to say? Leave us a comment below!